[3] My learnings from the course ‘Communication Strategies for a Virtual Age (University of Toronto)’

My learnings from Module 3: 


Lower attention spans mean we need to focus not only on the content we are spreading but also how the person we are trying to communicate with communicates


Types of communication styles:


  1. Hostile
  2. indifferent
  3. Uninformed
  4. Supportive




Hostile person core is blunt.  When they are thinking, they put it into categories, Black and white yes or no categories.

In order to win them over, we need to give them categories.

So when we speak to them, if we really want to get their commitment, if we want to get on their side, we put things into categories So imagine we’re trying to set up a meeting with someone to get them to be part of our team. To do a little piece of work so that we can do all this other work. The email needs to be blunt, in bullets and categories.

there are three things I need help with, one, two, and three. Please identify two times that we can meet.

Or, I need your help with the following items A, B, and C.

Is there a time this week that you could meet?



The reason they’re acting this way is that they feel unimportant. The good part about that is, it’s very easy to communicate with them because all you have to do is make them feel important.

When we’re speaking to an indifferent person, the hardest part is that if it’s outside their very, very specific realm of tasks, it’s very difficult to get them to commit to anything, and it’s very difficult to get them to commit to doing anything that isn’t on their time

When they feel important, they’re much more likely to go outside of their specific realm. Another strategy we have here with someone who’s indifferent is, you get them to complain to you. Do you know what makes someone feel important?




The underlining thing that they need is to feel understood, not understanding what they’re saying but understanding their situation. So the way we communicate to them is a two-part process. Empathy, plus point of view.

at every stage of your response, you’re showing empathy and asking them for their opinion on something, their point of view. Now suppose it’s not about getting a meeting, suppose it’s about getting a decision. What do you do? You have to inform them as you talk. So the empathy is things like this, I know it’s super busy but there were three criteria that I’ve identified for you, A, B, or C



So, how do we communicate with a supportive person? Well, there are three elements that we need to include in our communication:
One, small talk; two, everybody and everything; and three, hierarchies getting specific as we go.
Virtual small talk is a question plus a reveal. ‘hows the weekend + something’.
So, you say things like, “Everybody says that you’re the best person to talk through about this. You know what, Don? When I ask around, when someone needs help, everybody always says that I should go to you.” “Oh, do they really say that? That’s great. What can I do? How can I help?” So, you use the terms everybody or everything. Those two terms are going to right away make that person feel like the whole group brought you to them. If the whole group brought you to them, that means the whole group is going to be expecting them to do something, leaning them towards that motivation to actually acting.

Underlying motivations:


Three main underlying motivations:

Achievement, Affiliation, Power




Achievement people –

Not afraid to take chances, just has to be limited to a moderate risk
A strategy that always works: Slightly unreasonable goal
Example: You can approach an achievement motivated individual by giving them a slightly unreasonable timeline, a slightly unreasonable goal. You approach them like this, everyone thinks this is going to take two weeks, I think we can do it in one, right away, you’re addressing their underlying motivation.
give them this slightly unreasonable challenge in front of others and recognize them in front of others. This makes them accountable, makes them see we believe in them

Affiliation :


Affiliation Persons: The person who always is just trying to organize, hey, do you guys all want to do something for lunch? The person who’s always trying to organize group activities. That is the person who wants to feel like they are part of the group
Above all else, they want to avoid risk
Group harmony is an underlying motivation, risk is something that could rock the boat so they will try and avoid it.
Example: “Rebecca, listen, I’ve just been noticing some of the staff have been talking and everyone is getting upset because their computers are really lagging. And it’s hindering everyone, I’ve just been noticing people have been chatting about it a little bit. It’s one of the things we’re talking about, they probably come to you about it.” “I can tell you right away that’ll make everyone happy,”




Strategy: You can interrupt and just say look one, tell you what, can I put you in charge of a little bit of a research thing?  Can you just come back next time we have our meeting and give us pros and cons? Then based on that we’ll make a decision. Give them a little side project. Put them in charge of something.
That gives them influence, that gives them a little bit of power. That can be enough to stop the arguments to move on to the next thing.
Ask them for their advice, ask them for their patronage, ask them for their help so they can have influence. Make them part of the decision-making.


How do you figure out someone’s form of communication? Through questions


Types of questions :


a. Close-ended questions:

these are yes or no questions.

used for-

  • icebreakers, easier = better.
  • Specific information seekers, “Are our costs down”, “did you have a good quarter” e.t.c





Open-ended questions: 


3 reasons to use open-ended questions

  • Get someone talking
  • Get someone’s point of view


Strategic questions




1. Few y/n and open-ended questions to find their communication style.
2. Non-committal nudges, The less finality there is the more they will be pushed in the right direction.

Positional negotiation:  Arguing the physical things, money time etc.

Principal negotiation: Arguing about the ‘why’, not the actual decision.



Example: We’ve already had the meeting and it was weird, it was uncomfortable and the decision of the meeting was well let’s look into it a little bit more. Both you and the person you were speaking with probably left that meeting feeling unresolved, uncomfortable and it’s going to be awkward now, right? But now you have an opportunity because you’re going to keep going by email, listen, why don’t I follow up with you? I’ll ask the highers up and I’ll follow up with you next week. What if you sent a message and the message said something like this, hey, I know that you wanted to get some more money because you feel like you’re doing a lot of work for the organization right now. Do you feel like you’re not being recognized for it? Chances are what are they going to say? They’re going to say, yes, I’m doing the work of three people right now. So you feel like you’re getting worked over and you’re not being recognized for it. That’s a foundation, a point of agreement that we can build from.\
Example 2



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